The sixth adventure for IMF agent Ethan Hunt has miraculously turned out to be the best of the series. Mission: Impossible – Fallout builds upon the five films that have preceded it, weaving together a plot that draws from elements in each of the earlier M:I movies and then ups the world-in-peril ante with graver personal stakes for our intrepid hero.
What M:I–6 lacks in originality it more than makes up for with quality and quantity of action, terrific location photography in Paris and London, and a careful balance of the elements we’ve come to expect in a Mission: Impossible movie: cutting edge gadgetry and doppelganger masks; femmes fatales and turncoat agents; double-crosses and triple-crosses; and whiplash action sequences with a brave leading man who insists on performing many of his own bone-crunching, gravity-defying stunts.
In addition to the many Easter Eggs that harken back to previous Mission: Impossible movies, Fallout is chock full of winks and nods to some of the most popular action/adventure movies of all time. Some of the more obvious influences are:
Among the myriad similarities between Ethan Hunt’s sixth mission and the third Daniel Craig 007 film, we find ourselves embroiled in a storyline that plumbs the untold emotional depths of our hero’s private life and ups the ante with grave personal stakes.
The cliffhanger of Fallout’s London foot chase sequence has Ethan Hunt dangling from an ascending elevator, a nod to Bond’s similar vertiginous Skyfall stunt in a Shanghai skyscraper. As with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation before it, Mission: Impossible – Fallout gives a salute to Skyfall by using the city of London for a pivotal action sequence.
The insane helicopter stunts that punctuate the finale of this slick Sly Stallone actioner from director Renny Harlin have been one-upped in Fallout, with a psycho mid-air ramming and a final fisticuffs showdown inside the cabin of a wrecked copter dangling from the sheer face of a mountainside.
James Bond and Ethan Hunt both made a splash in the latter half of the 1990s, but the greatest espionage action thriller of the decade is John Frankenheimer’s adrenalized, ludicrously entertaining spy epic, highlighted by glamorous European locations, incredible practical stunts, and viscerally exciting car chases. The Paris truck chase in Fallout immediately following the armored car exchange and the motorbike-versus-car chase a few beats later are both white-knuckle tributes to the breathless vehicular mayhem in Ronin.
The Bourne Identity
The best of the Bourne movies, Doug Liman’s spy flick is made in the James Bond mold that favors practical stunts over CGI enhancement and location shooting in the most picturesque continental destinations. The nail-biting chases and combat sequences are each mini masterpieces of precise action choreography and visceral camera work. It all comes at you fast and furiously but never fails to make spatial sense.
Fallout writer/director Christopher McQuarrie clearly prefers the smooth and geographically coherent style of action in the original Bourne movie versus the increasingly chaotic, jittery bursts of action in the three Damon-centric Bourne sequels, all of them marred to some degree by sequel director Paul Greengrass’ preference for the haggard, shaky-cam style of action. Both Fallout and The Bourne Identity spend a great deal of time in Paris, and both manage to make the oft-filmed City of Lights look fresh.
Tomorrow Never Dies
Ethan Hunt’s H.A.L.O. jump into Paris has given Tom Cruise real-life bragging rights to a spectacular stunt that owes a wink of acknowledgement to the second Pierce Brosnan 007 flick in which 007 does a H.A.L.O. drop into the China Sea. In another Fallout nod to Bond, Benji saves the day by driving an escape car via remote control.
The Dark Knight
From the tense armored car assault sequence to Ethan Hunt’s wild escape through Paris on a motorbike while being pursued by police cars above and below ground, the midsection of Fallout ought to remind you of the Joker’s attack on Harvey Dent along with all of Batman’s associated motorbike maneuvers.
There’s an intentional parallel between Sean Harris’ slithery Syndicate villain Solomon Lane and Heath Ledger’s taunting, tortured Joker, and the common theme of a shining knight questioning his code of morality lends both films—and, crucially, both heroes—a subversive edge of darkness.